On a weekly basis we are blessed to have this peaceful, happy, gentle giant of a man drop into the SW office and share with us amazing stories of surfing history, great big heart to heart hugs and some of the best risotto you’ll ever have the pleasure of eating on a deadline. Thanks for the aloha mate. (Christensen)

The Genius Of Jack McCoy

We sit down with the legend of surf film and Aloha

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What I know about…

Childhood – I grew up in Hawaii in an upper middle class neighborhood about 50 yards down a lane to the beach. Kailua is on the north east side of the island Oahu. My friend’s uncles took us under their wings and gave us a waterman’s education of diving, fishing, bodysurfing, canoe paddling, and of course all things in surfing. You learned early that you wanted to strive to become proficient at all aspects of the art of “waterman”. They taught me everything about the wind, tide, swell, moon and more. I learned that you never stop learning about nature and the ocean. It eternally blows my mind with its beauty and then I flash on how the human race does everything it can to stuff it up.

Fatherhood – Best to realise from the start your children are not you. They have their own path, journey of discovery, adventure, and lessons to learn from their own mistakes. Love and guide them unconditionally. Make them feel your home is their safe place to be.

Getting started – Dick Hoole and I got started as cub reporters for Tracks shooting still photos, learning from Wiz, Albe and Frank Pithers. Mostly B&W because we couldn’t afford to buy colour film. We also learned how to go out and get a story. I feel the two or three years we did that gave us such an education in shooting pictures, exposures, framing, dimension, composition and shooting from the hip, and by that I mean being ready to shoot the story at any second. When you get a good handle on that, you should be ready to start making moving pictures.

Tubular Swells – Tubular Swells was filmed in 1975, right in the guts of the MR, Shaun and Mike Tomson, Rabbit, Lopez, Rory, era. Legropes had just become standard issue. I tell people it was the film that sucked me into my life’s work. Everything was all new and super exciting. We had very little money but that didn’t stop us.

Women – I didn’t settle down permanently until I was 42. Relationships require 110 per cent commitment and when I first met my wife I was ready for that. Pretty old school but that’s my vibe.

Peak moment – Being there when my wife gave birth to my two children.

Career highlights – Premiering my film A Deeper Shade of Blue in Hawaii. It was the night I gifted my film to my hometown with all my friends, heroes and peers all there. My good friend was saying the blessing when it started to rain. The ever so subtle sprinkle that lasted 30 seconds was a sign to me that showing the film outdoors, under the stars, at the exact site where Duke grew up as a kid was a positive vibration my family and I were being blessed for the effort we put into the five years the film took to make. It was our gift to Hawaii and surfing. After that it would be making a music video for Paul McCartney. When Paul saw the final version of his music with my images he turned to me, gave me a double handed bro shake, and said “Magic! Beautiful, Brother… you’ve blown my mind!” Collaborating with a Beatle… that would have to be a peak moment for sure.  

Regrets – I take to heart and love the expression, “experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want!” No regrets.

Surfers – I’ve had the honour of working with three or four generations of surfers and it would not be fair to say who’s best.  Each of them have taught me something.

Advice to young filmmakers – Try and do something different than what’s already around. Trust your gut feelings. I don’t watch anyone else’s films. I don’t want to be influenced by what others are doing. It was tough for A Deeper Shade of Blue, four years of production without looking at what was around. I take my hat off to anyone who has made a film and not just a bunch of clips put together, but a film with a beginning, middle and an end. People don’t realise how much work and effort, blood sweat and tears that goes into a film. The idea is to try and touch, move or inspire just one person with your expression in film. If you do that you’ve succeeded. Sadly, your mom doesn’t count as that one person.

Self image – Flippy Hoffman used to say “If I’d known I was going to live this long I would have looked after myself better.” I’m in a space where I want to share and give back to those who have sincere interest. My apprentice on A Deeper Shade Of Blue was so keen to learn and it was a joy to teach him, just like my friends’ Uncles shared with me when I was a kid in Hawaii. Give, give, give, and give more, in the spirit of Aloha, expecting nothing in return. I think that comes with age and experience. Self image, I guess you could say I’m 18 years old with 47 years of experience.

Advice – Breathe. Give thanks and praises for each breath you are given. I’ve been in several positions where I’ve not been able to take one and it’s a constant wake up call that you’re only as good as the next one.

You can buy or rent from Jack’s seminal film catalogue here: greenroomsurfmovies.com

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